'Ryan Kent has already beaten last season's tally for goals and assists' - Steven Gerrard mounts stout defence of Rangers' £7m man

Steven Gerrard has mounted a stirring defence of Ryan Kent in the face of growing disquiet from a section of the Rangers support that the winger has struggled to live up to his price tag.

Ryan Kent was frustrated against Aberdeen on Saturday. Picture: SNS
Ryan Kent was frustrated against Aberdeen on Saturday. Picture: SNS

Kent became the club’s second most expensive purchase when £7 million was paid to Liverpool in August to acquire his services.

A hamstring injury immediately after he signed delayed the 23-year-old the opportunity to build on an impressive 2018-19 season on loan at Ibrox. In recent months, Kent’s desperation to do well has seemed to stymie his form, despite a couple of notable goals.

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Gerrard has an altogether different take on Kent’s contribution this season.

"He's already beaten last season's tally for goals and assists, in terms of where he was by the end of January, so we're very pleased with where his numbers are at,” said the Rangers manager, the Englishman having netted six goals this season and last, while he is six short of his nine assist total from the whole of the last campaign.

"I'll always strive for the best Ryan Kent, whether he's in top form or indifferent form. He's one of our best players. It's vital that he stays fit and healthy because he's going to be a big help to us from now till the end of the season. We always knew with Ryan, the reason we were so keen to pay the money for him was he was always capable of improving his numbers and the signs are that he's going to do that."

Asked if he felt the player was trying to do too much, Gerrard said: "He wants to continue to make these fans happy. At his age and the position he plays, it's almost natural at times that he tries too hard in certain situations but he's not the only one. Ryan's doing just fine, his numbers are already better than last season and he's had one of the worst pre-seasons you could have in terms of not where he's going to be then coming back and the part that I have to play, is probably being too keen to get him in and he got the injury. There's no doubt about it, Ryan Kent's going to contribute heavily to this team for the remainder of this season and moving forward.”

Gerrard rejected any suggestion that justifying a fee that, in Scottish terms, represents a huge outlay, could be an issue.

“I don't think he's bothered about that. He's not one of these people who thinks about that stuff. He just wants to play football, to create and score goals. It is different for him now because for a long time he probably didn't know if he was coming or going at Liverpool. Is he going on loan, is the manager keeping him for pre-season to give him an opportunity?

“He's probably been all over the place from a mental point of view. But this is his home now, he's settled. His numbers are good but we want him to get better and keep improving. Ryan's in a good place.”